Chinese State Media Just Tried to Fat-Shame Greta Thunberg

“Although she claims to be vegetarian, judging from the results of her growth, her carbon emissions are actually not low.”
May 21, 2021, 9:57am
Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg takes part in a climate protest march in Brussels. Photo: JOHN THYS / AFP

The 18-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been viciously attacked on the Chinese internet for criticizing China’s carbon emissions.

In a scathing article published last week on China Daily, an outlet owned by the ruling Communist Party, Thunberg was mocked for her weight and labelled an “environmental princess” after she urged China to do more to address climate change. 

“Although she claims to be vegetarian, judging from the results of her growth, her carbon emissions are actually not low,” said the writer, Tang Ge, who originally posted the article on the social media and messaging app WeChat.

Chinese social media users have joined the attack on Thunberg, complaining about her “double standards” in faulting China for its carbon emissions and for not speaking up about problems elsewhere.

Advertisement

Echoing the China Daily article, top comments on social media about Thunberg have criticized her for not talking more about Japan’s plan to release treated wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear power plants into the sea.

The Chinese responses to Thunberg’s criticism underscore how politics and nationalism can infiltrate the public conversation about how to mitigate the climate crisis.

Thunberg’s call for action wasn’t extreme. In a tweet earlier this month, which became the subject of the China Daily article’s criticisms, Thunberg was responding to a report saying that China’s annual emissions were greater than those of all developed nations combined in 2019.

Acknowledging that China is a developing country and a global manufacturing hub, she said that the climate crisis can’t be solved unless the country “drastically changes course.”

In a subsequent tweet, she posted a video showing that the United States had greater cumulative emissions since 1750 than any other country and called on developed countries to lead the effort to reduce emissions. 

The negative reactions to Thunberg could have come in part from China’s aversion to her brand of activism, which has inspired young climate campaigners in the country.

She was previously attacked in China for voicing her support for Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who has been imprisoned for organizing illegal protests.

Follow Heather Chen on Twitter.